There’s nothing worse than being told “NO!” We’ve all heard it a thousand times. It’s probably the most un-fun part of any business. So how do you tackle this daily challenge in a way that keeps you and your team’s spirits up and keeps you going for that “yes”?

At Barefoot, we made a game out of it, and you can too! We called it the “no” game. The object of the “no” game is to get to “yes,” but keeping track of how many times you were told no before you got to yes is also a part of the fun!

One of the exciting parts of the game is to discover the average number of noes you get before you get to yes, and then come in under that number by using skills, strategies, and tactics that you discover and share with the other players.

And who are the other players? All the folks on your team. The folks with the same goals that you have who are likewise confronted with noes on a regular basis. Here’s how we played the “no” game:

Identify the Average Number of Noes. In order to do this, everyone would compare notes. Over a period of a month we would keep track of how many noes we got before we got to a yes. Then we would take the mathematical average for each player and for the whole team. In our case, we discovered that the average number of noes was seven!

If someone would complain that they got told no, we’d ask him how many times they attempted to get to yes. If they said three or four times, we’d say, “Why you have just begun! You haven’t even gotten to the average yet!” And if they said 10 or 15 times we’d say, “Excellent! Now you must be very close! Keep trying, you’re overdue for a yes!” We’d all laugh. Just looking at this kind of adversity as a game would raise our spirits and make us more confident in our quest.

Ask a Different Day. It seems crazy, but our people actually asked the same person the same request on a different day and got a yes! Maybe the decision maker was in a better mood. Maybe they forgot they originally said no. Or maybe they had time to think about it, got new information, or something happened that made a yes more beneficial to them.

Ask a Different Person. All of a sudden there’s a new decision maker …who likes the proposition! Or you get someone else who sees the proposition differently. We would often get stopped (or “delayed” is a better term) by assistant types who couldn’t say yes anyway but wanted us to believe they had the power to do so. Finally, we would realize that person’s limited decision-making abilities and be given an opportunity (because their assistant was sick that day) to go a higher-up who would say, “Yes! We need this!”

Ask a Different Way. Maybe you’ve been asking the wrong question, or been phrasing it in the wrong way. Rethink your request. Think about how your proposition would help the person you are asking. Then ask them if you can help with their problem. Think about a question you can ask that will get a yes, then go from there. Maybe they just need more or different information.

Share your Successful Strategies. When you finally get to yes be sure to announce how you got there so the other members of your team can learn and apply. Announce how many noes you got before you got to yes. And validate or change the average. It’s entertaining, fun, and educational. More importantly, it builds confidence and resolve throughout the team.

The funny thing is there’s really no “yes” or “no” in business! We’ve had folks say no, and later say yes! We’ve had folks say yes and never sign a contract to validate their verbal decision! The real answers in business are “now” and “later.” You are the only one who can say no …when you stop asking! So, play the “no” game and you will keep on asking! They will say yes now or later!


Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact